Bil Johnson

Yale University
Lecturer at Brown University

Bil has over 25 years of experience as a public school teacher. Before his current role as a teacher at the Urban Assembly School in NYC, Bil was a senior lecturer at Brown University.

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Presidential Policy and Historical Time

Bil Johnson
Bil Johnson

Yale University
Lecturer at Brown University

Bil has over 25 years of experience as a public school teacher. Before his current role as a teacher at the Urban Assembly School in NYC, Bil was a senior lecturer at Brown University.


In our continuing look at how graphic organizers can help you get you prepared for the AP US history test, two things. Presidential policy. There are 44 presidents now. It’s a fairly large number and there is a lot of history. But there are ways, and I think through a simple graphic organizer, to help organize how we think about the presidents, and to make logical connections between one to the next, by looking at certain things. In the same way, a classic device of course for historians, is the timeline. But what I’d like you show you is, how to create a timeline that really, really gets you thinking about cause and effect. And also, as with all our graphic organizers, overlaps with this presidential policy one, as well as with some of the other graphic organizers we’ve seen. What we’re going to do now is take a look at presidential policy and historical timeline graphic organizers.

We talk about the presidents, and I find knowing the presidents really facilitates remembering American history, but that’s just me. But if it helps you, this might be a good graphic organizer. When we talk about presidential policy, we really are talking about domestic policies and foreign policies. And then what I always would like to add in my graphic organizer, is the significance either of the administration, or of particular policies.

So if we were to look at somebody like George Washington, in terms of domestic policies, once again, it’s tough to get away from Hamilton’s financial program. That might be one thing. There may be other stuff there. Financial program leads to something like the whisky rebellion. So you might find some cause and effect.

With foreign policy, you’ve got Jay’s treaty. And you also have of course, the Farewell Address of George Washington, which really becomes the cornerstone of American foreign policy for the next 50, 60, 70 years. So the significance of course with Washington’s administration, is that it’s the first. And in a kind of play on words, it sets precedents. So it’s a president who sets precedents.

But very important, in the same way we might look at Adams in terms of domestic and foreign policies, the Alien and Sedition Acts, the undeclared war with France. We start to look at that. So the significance here is that there’s politician turmoil around the domestic and foreign policies, which leads to Jefferson and what’s called the revolution of 1800s. Now we start to look at Jefferson.

In domestic policies, we’ve got the Marbury vs. Madison case. In foreign policy, you have Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark expedition, the Embargo Act. I’m not filling this in now, just because it would take some time and I just want to really give you the idea. Fairly quickly, you can run through presidential administrations. And if you think of it in terms of what happened at home, what happened in terms of foreign policy, and what was the significance of this, you really start to get a quick review, a comprehensive review and a nice study sheet, to go back to for your multiple choice, or for your free response, for your DBQ.

This kind of organizer is really a very effective and quick way to review the presidents, review their administrations, take a look at the significance and prepare yourself for every aspect of the AP US history test.

One of the oldest most tried and true methods of studying history, and reviewing history, is the timeline. And I’m sure you’re familiar with timelines. What I’d like to show you here, is a way a fashioning a timeline that combines some of the ideas we’ve looked at already, like domestic policies and foreign policies, in a way that also brings in cause and effect ideas. We know obviously 1776. You’ve got the American Revolution, but you’ve also got those Articles of Confederation. So you’ve got the Articles of Confederation organizing the country and I bring that up because on this timeline, I can see I’m going to get over to here, and I know I’ve got the constitution on the way.

What I’ve got in foreign policy of course, the revolution kind of bridges both and then I’ve got the treaty of Paris. And that might actually connect, when you talk about the treaty of Paris, because of the property that the United States gains from Great Britain. We might even see a little bridge to 1787, in the North West ordinance. I’m starting to see that there are cause and effect items here. As I start to fill in the factual data, when I look at my timeline, I can start to see one thing leads to another. And I can start to make those connections, while I’m reinforcing what I know factually. And I’m also reinforcing my dates with the information.

Also breaking it down in terms of foreign policy and domestic policy, will help me set up my thinking when I get to free response essays, when I get to the document-based questions. So if you just continue, and some of this will be out there for you in the bonus materials, even if it’s just the template, for you to continue yourself. We might look at domestic policies.

Well we’ve got the federalists, the new constitution with its Bill of Rights, Hamilton’s domestic financial program, and that moves down the line. In foreign policy, we start to see Jay’s treaty, the farewell address again. We go to 1800, the Jeffersonian revolution of 1800, Marbury vs. Madison, the Embargo Act, the Louisiana Purchase. Some stuff there that we’ve talked about, but it just reinforces that knowledge and it gives us that cause and effect spiral. As you start to see, for example the Embargo Act of 1807, really contributes to ultimately the war of 1812 with Great Britain.

So it gets you thinking systematically, it gets you thinking chronologically, and what I think is a very painless way. And a way that synthesizes your knowledge and allows you to really approach the test from a bunch of different directions with as I said, an age old tried and true graphic organizer, the historical timeline.

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